Q&A

Marky Ramone Talks Punk History, Phil Spector, and Italian Food

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Self-taught drummer Marky Ramone (aka Marc Bell) was already established on the New York music scene before joining the Ramones in 1978, and his resume reads with bands that were indeed far ahead of their time. As a teen, Marky hung out in Greenwich Village with Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, and his high school band Dust (one of the first heavy metal band in the United States) signed with a major label, opened for Alice Cooper, and broke into the Billboard Top 100 chart. Marky Ramone continued onward into the first wave of punk during the early days on the CBGB scene. He worked with the Misfits, Wayne County (rock's first transsexual singer), and Richard Hell and the Voidoids (known for pioneering the "punk look"), to name a few.

When drummer Tommy Ramone asked Marky to replace him on the kit and join Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee on the road, he started a new chapter of music history. With his iconic, high energy drumming, he helped craft songs like "Rock n Roll High School" and "I Wanna Be Sedated," and stayed in the Ramones for 15 years, nine studio albums and 1,700 shows. While the memoir focuses on a social history of the New York punk scene, it also catalogs never-before-shared touring stories, working with Phil Spector and Stephen King, and Marky's struggles with alcoholism.

Something that the book does beautifully is painting a picture of the other Ramones. He felt the significance of vocalist Joey's politics was "overblown. No matter how bossy he sometimes got in the van, the America he loved was ultimately about freedom." Dee Dee is described as a poet trapped in punk body: "He never quite found the freedom he was looking for on earth, but the ride he gave the rest of us was liberating." Joe was the punk hippie who found "an odd, self-styled freedom down in the basement of his mother's art store, wrapped it up, and gave it to the world as gift."

By 2014, all of the original four members had died, but Marky continues to tour the world and play from the Ramones' catalog, bringing the music to brand-new generations.

Currently on a book signing tour, Marky Ramone will be at Changing Hands bookstore and Crescent Ballroom on Tuesday, January 20.

Up on the Sun talked with Marky Ramone about the ultimate career goal, the punk he listens to now, and the hope there's a band in some basement working on their repertoire, "so we can eventually see another budding Dee Dee Ramone."

When you first set out to write Punk Rock Blitzkrieg, what did you want to achieve? A tell all? A cautionary tale? A historical timeline of punk?

Well, my autobiography, my life in the band and before that. And my 15 years with the group and 1,700 shows. I felt it was valid to write the book and have it be the most comprehensive and informative book about the Ramones.

After you were contacted by the publisher, you got some advice from Peter Criss from KISS about a collaborator.

A friend of his suggested that Rich Herschlag help me write the book to help keep it sounding like me. It was one of his buddies who could help write. Peter and I never really discussed writing the book, but he did have a quote in the back of the book about me that was really great.

You were on the forefront of so many legendary bands in music, from Dust to Wayne County. What characteristics within you made you gravitate towards these different, ground-breaking projects?

Well, I liked what I saw. And I wanted to be in those bands. So you work hard and you work within the song; you become friendly with the guys. At CBGB we all knew each other. And then I was able to play with the bands. It was that simple because CBGB was the place to go. First it was Wayne County, then Richard Hell and then the Ramones. But I did have a band in high school; we were one of the first heavy metal bands in America called Dust. We made it to a major label that made two albums, but then we fizzled out because we had to finish high school. We had to get that diploma on the wall because our parents wanted us to finish school. So then I went to New York and found a home at CBGB.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise